Friday, August 29, 2008

The Last of the Wizards

The Last of the Wizards
Rona Jaffe ~ illustrations by Erik Blegvad
Simon & Schuster, 1961

A gift to my unborn son from his godparents, The Last of the Wizards finally answers the question... If someone granted you three wishes, why would you not wish for more wishes?I've only recently started reading my son this tale of a wizard, a boy, a trip to the moon and dozens of wishes, and am not sure why I waiting so long. It is in one word ~ marvelous.A long, long time ago, when children's nurses remembered stories of dragons, and brave princes rode about the forest on their horses looking for beautiful princesses who were locked up in enchanted castles, everybody knew about wizards. But that was a long, long time ago, before anybody who is now living was even born, even the oldest, oldest person you know.Penned by the famous novelist and illustrated by the king of my favorite genre in children's book illustration (that is, guys who draw things small... not to be mistaken with people who draw small things), it has since been (why, why, why?) reprinted with a different illustrator. Not knocking the new illustrator, it's just when the original is so great, why mess with it?I imagine at the time it was published it was a rather modern tale. Wizards are practically extinct and princesses go to "school to learn how to read and play tennis and be a queen." Now, the story is dated enough that it still takes us back to another time when it seemed enchanting things really did occur right in our own bedrooms.

I don't want to spoil the fun by giving away too much, but if you are a parent to a child and you hope to instill in them a sense of wonder and magical things, do yourself a favor and find out how the story ends. It is delightfully unresolved and might spark a mountain of imagination for those of us who still believe.

Also by:
Mud Pies and Other Recipes
A Year is a Window
The Diamond in the Window
Plenty of Fish


Read along on Facebook, Twitter and Etsy!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Look Out For Pirates!

Look Out Pirates
Iris Vinton, illustrations by H.B. Vestal
Random House, 1961

I have to admit, anytime I see a vintage Random House Beginner Book, I always buy it, no matter what it is. Partly because I have a shelf that holds just this series and it is good to keep up the collection. And partly because even if they aren't your favorite books in the world, there will be something awesome about them.

My son has yet to go through his pirate phase, and there are four full-page spreads we must always skip because they house the image of a fierce shark... but man, oh, man the story is cheesy fun. Said story begins...

It was a dark night. It was hard to see. But Captain Jim and his men worked fast. They put bag after bag of gold into a box. Then Captain Jim and his men put the box of gold on his boat. They had to get this gold to another town. There were pirates here. And the pirates wanted this gold.

Though it is never explained where Captain Jim and his men got the gold from in the first place (unbagging gold into a treasure chest in the dead of night? fishy to say the least), the fun begins here as (of course) a hidden pirate is watching their every move. I won't give away the story in full, but know there is a ship wreck, some deserted island fun, scuba diving, the aforementioned shark incident and the foiling of an evil plan that involves a hornet's nest. Penned by a onetime Nancy Drew writer, whether your kid is the swashbuckling type or simply a sucker for all thing mystery, three thumbs up on this delightful maritime adventure.

Also by:
Favorite Just So Stories

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock

Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock
Bill Peet ~ Houghton Mifflin, 1973

Since getting into collecting children's books for my son, I've grown to have a love-hate relationship with Bill Peet, the one-time Disney animator who's style is best seen in films like The Jungle Book and One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Lots of you might disagree, but as an adult, I wasn't immediately taken by his stuff. I first ended up with a copy of Chester the Worldly Pig, and it early-on it proved to be my least favorite read-aloud book. Not really sure why, but whatever the exact aversion, it wasn't until I ran into this old childhood favorite that I began to go back and reevaluate Peet's work. And you know what? The dude wasn't half bad. D'uh. In fact, he was actually pretty dang awesome.

His stories are a little wacky and his drawings do have a crude, unfinished quality, but these aspects of his work that originally put me off are now starting to win me over. I was quite literally mad about Prewitt when I was young. I loved this book, and my son who is animal-boy (and of late has become the more specifically bird-boy) adores it, as well. They might not be the prettiest books or the most lovely drawings in the world of children's literature, but they are wildly imaginative and a hoot to read.

So there is this peacock, see, with an ugly, nothing of a tail, until one day...

One day he noticed that the eyespots had doubled in size, and fierce black eyebrows had sprouted just above them. And yet that was not the end of his tail. It continued to feather out. Before long a jagged mouth appeared just below the enormous eyes. Then finally out sprang a pair of feathery arms with wildly clutching claws. "My tail has gone wild!" exclaimed Prewitt. "It's turned into a green-eyed monster!"

Honestly, Prewitt's tail did scare the crap out of me when I was young, yet it was because of that spookiness that I always returned to it. Bill Peet is alright in my book... finally. (Pardon the dingy cover. This is my original childhood copy, sans book jacket.)

Also by:
Hubert's Hair-Raising Adventure
No Such Things


Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

small magazine

Be sure and visit small magazine this month for my little write up on vintage kids' books in the small type section... including pics of some of my books and my son in his uber-cute "I only read vintage..." pose.

Treasures to See

Treasures to See
Leonard Weisgard
Harcourt, Brace & World, 1956

Always on the lookout for books that open up new worlds for kids, when I first heard about this title, I was stoked. A museum guide written and illustrated by one of the greatest children's illustrators of all time? No way!

Once in hand, I immediately recognized why this book is special for a number of reasons. For one, the story is one of children visiting a general purpose arts museum... meaning it covers not just painting, but statues, decorative and Egyptian arts, stained glass, armor, tapestry and clothing. Remembering museum-going as a child, some of these areas were ones that didn't necessarily engage me right away. Here, the author sweeps the reader right in, reminding us why each piece and each genre is a treasure to see.

Another thing that makes this book unique is that the artwork depicted is real. Weisgard has created slightly abstract, but still dead-on representations of famous works; even tagging them by name, date, region and period. I will admit to ordering this title online and being somewhat disappointed at first glance ~ the same way I used to feel going into the medieval rooms of a museum as a child. But after just one read, it was easy to see what I'd been missing.

Obviously the book's lack of curbside appeal isn't just me. Mine is an exlibrary book from Lewisville, Texas, and according to the date-due-card in the back, the thing sat dormant on the self from October 26, 1984 when fifth grader Brian Blackwell checked it out until November 15, 1994 when second grader Steve took her home. Ten years is a long time to go unloved. (No wonder it is in pristine condition!) Regardless, my boy digs it... (though, just between you and me, it might be better suited for a kid five years or older.)

Because a museum of art is such a big, exciting place, with so many rooms and galleries, you cannot see it all at one time, but you will want to go back again and again. No matter how often you visit a museum, no matter how much you see each time, there are always new and exciting treasures to discover, and wonderful things to see.

Also by:
The Quiet Noisy Book
Little Chicken
The Little Island
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
The Big Book of Nursery Tales
Sir Kevin of Devon
Cynthia and the Unicorn
The Mouse and the Lion

Monday, August 25, 2008

Great Big Air Book

Richard Scarry's Great Big Air Book
by Richard Scarry/ published 1971 by Random House

Now that I'm reunited with my childhood Richard Scarry books, I thought it was about time I gave cred to the world that came to be known as Busytown. Now hold onto your hats... but I can honestly say that when I was little, Mr. Scarry's books were my favorites, hands down. Something about the shear so-many-things-going-on-at-once-ness of them all really engaged my pea brain mind in a way no other books did. My son is the same. If I have to go somewhere and keep him busy in a waiting room, doctor's office or line of some kind, I simply pack an oversized Scarry book, and I'm good for a half hour or more.

These are the books that taught me what people do all day, the elements of the school day, how to brush my teeth, what everything in the world is called, and in this case, all about air pollution, air travel and cool summer breezes. If you are looking to purchase any of these titles, be sure to buy vintage. As a friend of mine pointed out to me, the new versions are weirdly PC. Check out this awesome flickr comparison.

In the summer the air is hot. It is fun to go to the beach and enjoy cool ocean breezes. Mathilda could hardly wait to put on her new rubber tube and go for a swim. She was sure that the air in the tube would keep her from sinking.

Think again my hippo friend. Yep, Huckle Cat, Miss Honey and the rest of the gang populated my adolescent imagination deep into my teen years, and as far as I'm concered, any childhood without them would be a lesser one. With each person, place and thing labeled and hilarious, these books open up the universe to kids. Scarry's animals live lives parallel to our own, and isn't that what all kids want? A banana-car driving baboon they can relate to?

Also by:
I Am a Bunny
Chipmunk's ABC
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rabbit and His Friends
The Bunny Book
Richard Scarry's Best Rainy Day Book Ever
Tommy Visits the Doctor

Great Monday Give: Crictor

Hey guys... You'll notice here that hence forth, when I have the time and inclination, I'll try and scan the cover of The Great Monday Give. As such, you'll be pleased to know the giveaway book for this fine, sprinkly morning is a nice/ used/ paperback/ exlibrary copy of Crictor by Tomi Ungerer. All you have to do to be entered to win this awesome read is comment on this post before midnight ~ Sunday ~ August 31. I will randomly select a winner, and ship the book to them free of cost. (I do this because I find lots of cool books for next-to-nothing, and I'm all about paying it forward.)

Speaking of which, the winner of last week's giveaway of One Monster After Another is Alexis (who listens to Yaz, how cool is that!?!) at Knot Sew Crafty (which is a super cute site by the way) who admits... "I love books, I love vintage books more, and I love free vintage books the best!" Congrats! Please e-mail me your shipping info at, and I will ship said book out to you as soon as I can drag butt to the post office and stick 'ur in the slot.

Stay tuned next week for another great give. In the meantime, be expecting a review shortly.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Little House

The Little House
Virginia Lee Burton/ published 1942 by Houghton Mifflin

Another nod to one of the best children's books ever. (Feeling like I'm hitting too much obscure or random stuff without getting through the classics, so bear with me.) The Little House is one of those reads that is so great, you'd almost like to marry it in the old "if you love it so much why don't you marry it?" sense of the word.

Sooooooo, there is this gorgeous, sweet and idyllic little cottage in the country, and she's happy and healthy and dear...

Once there was a Little House way out in the country. She was a pretty Little House and she was strong and well built. The man who built her so well said, "This Little House shall never be sold for gold or silver and she will live to see our great-great-grandchildren's great-great-grandchildren living in her."

Alas... all good things come to an end. When the Little House becomes curious about the city, she soon gets her wish when the world grows up around her, and she finds herself all alone among the big city lights and sky scrapers. You guys who read this blog and love things of old will really appreciate the sentiment here. If you've never experienced the joy of reading the Little House's tale of happiness, woe and redemption out loud to your child, get ready. Around page 32 is when the tears well up. I get the same sensation from this story that I used to get as a child listening to Edelweiss from the Sound of Music. Scratch that... we are listening to it now, and apparently that song still set my goosebumps afire.

My boy loves this book and truly experiences empathy for the Little House on every read. Virginia Lee Burton is really, really good at creating genuine stories like this. She is the real thing and a treasure indeed. Never EVER, EVER pass up the chance to grab one of her books for a song. Shoot, hers might even be worth paying full cover price. ;)

Also by:
Calicio the Wonder Horse or The Saga of Stewy Stinker
Life Story

Thursday, August 21, 2008


words and pictures by Uri Shulevitz/ published 1974 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

On the surface, nothing much happens in this story except the sun rising. But the minimal text and stripped down illustrations express a ton without really saying much of anything. Reading this one is like taking a warm bath or smelling a flower. Calm and simple ~ totally soul filling. Almost like a whispered secret, replete with a shocking and rich punch line.

It is cold and damp.
Under a tree by the lake
an old man and his grandson
curl up in blankets.
The moon lights a rock, a branch, an occasional leaf.
The mountain stands guard, dark and silent.
Nothing moves.

The colors are spectacular ~ deep blues and greens exploding into yellow and gold by the end. I almost wish I were a grandfather, so I could pass the sentiment down to my grandson. (Plus I'm a sucker for books with one word titles, but, hey.) Though Dawn is the companion volume to Rain Rain Rivers, Mr. Shulevitz is most famous for the 1969 Caldecott Medal winner The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship.

My boy digs the way the story unfolds (I was gonna say like a flower blooming or a baby chick cracking from its shell, but I didn't wanna pour the syrup on too strong), so I'm off in search of this dude's other books. If nothing else, Dawn is worthy of more than a few checkouts from the library.

Also by:
One Monday Morning

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mei Li

Mei Li
Thomas Handforth
Doubleday, 1938

Scored for 50 cents at a library sale recently, this Caldecott Medal winner has been fun to read with the Olympics going on. According to the book jacket, the author and etcher went to the Far East in 1931 on a Guggenheim Fellowship and penned this tale based on his experiences. The story follows a young girl on the eve of the Chinese New Year as she ventures out to the streets of Peiping to enjoy all the mysteries the holiday has to offer. The black and white etchings are divine, and the story has a great flow to it, each sentence giving a nod back to the one that preceded it.

In North China, near the Great Wall, is a city shut in by the Wall. Not far from the city in the snow-covered country is a house with a wall around it, too. Inside the house on the morning before New Year's Day, everyone was busy. Mei Li, the little girl with a candle-top pigtail, was scrubbing and sweeping and dusting. Her mother, Mrs. Wang, was baking and frying and chopping. Her brother, San Yu, was fixing and tasting and mixing. A fine feast prepared for the Kitchen God, who would come at midnight to every family in China to tell them what they must do during the coming year.

Packed full of Chinese tradition, it's wonderful to experience another culture from a child's point of view. The girl herself is extremely charming, and wins your heart by how she deals with each adventure as it arises. Pictured here is "the good luck bell under the Bridge of Wealth", and I've been racking my brain trying to figure out how to incorporate this tradition into an American holiday. So fun!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Curious George Flies a Kite

Curious George Flies a Kite
Margret Rey with pictures by H.A. Rey/ published 1958 by Houghton Mifflin

Am posting on this book for a number of reasons. First being that everybody loves George. Flies a Kite ~ in particular ~ happens to be my son's favorite CG book and is probably in his top ten reads of all time. I spent at least six good months back when the boy was one reciting these pages over and over again throughout the day, and that is saying a lot. The thing takes at least 18 minutes to get through aloud. And second is that I am sensing it as a Great Monday Give soon. Plus, as I've mentioned before, it holds one of my personal favorite lines in children's literature...

With the hook
on the string
and the string
on the stick
and the cake
in the box
in his hand,
George went back to the lake.

Some of the George books can be wordy and harbor blurry plot lines, but this one (and CG Rides a Bike) is perfect for the smaller set, with colorful, lively pictures and great rhythm to the language.

You know, my son's book collection is segregated in my brain into three categories.

1) Books I hate to read. They are usually boring, with crappy pictures, but for some reason they found their way into my home and when the boy thrusts them into my face, I have to suck it up and oblige, all the while daydreaming of something different. IE, more recent Berenstain Bear and Little Critter books.

2) Books I hate to read but know that I should, so I do anyway. That is, books that are long and tedious but I know the boy is learning from. IE, Birds Do the Strangest Things and Red Tag.

3) Books that are perfect in every way. Books that I am psyched to read when the boy brings them to me. Books that are entertaining to me as well as him. IE, this one.

A must have on a long road trip. I might even consider having the boy read this at my funeral... poetic justice for all the hours and days I've clocked reading in rhyme and making funny voices. Of all the books I've loved and he's listened to, this one probably wins the "Most Times Read Aloud" award.

Also by:
Katy No-Pocket

Monday, August 18, 2008

Love Is a Special Way of Feeling

Love Is a Special Way of Feeling
by Joan Walsh Anglund/ published 1960 by Harcourt, Brace & World

Let me just say that my idealized childhood (the way my mother envisioned it) would have been populated only with the likes of Kate Greenaway, Tasha Tudor, Carl Larsson and this little lady, Joan Walsh Anglund. Most all of her books dotted my youth, so to become reacquainted with her thoroughly at my mom's house was a treat. I also am remembering that there is a signed (with scribbled illustrations of me and my sisters!) copy of one of her books hanging around. I couldn't find it in Virginia, but suspect it might be tucked away in the stuff from my previous single life. Some searching needs to be done indeed.

I've always found the sweet little expressionless and possibly mouthless children Ms. Anglund draws to be charming, and this wee little book is beyond cute. It is so filled with cotton candy goodness that it is hard not to get teary-eyed thinking about the people in your life who you feel the warm fuzzies for. Par example...

Love comes quietly...
but you know when it is there,
because, suddenly...
you are not alone any more...
and there is no sadness
inside of you.

For all the sap that might come with this sort of sentiment, you gotta admit, it does feel good to not be alone in the world. All of us can relate to that.

Also by:
Nibble Nibble Mousekin
The Cowboy's Christmas

Great Monday Give: One Monster After Another

I can't get it together to post more than one Great Monday Give today, but the good news is it is back at all! And it is a great one. So yea, for those of you new arrivals, Monday is the day that I give away a vintage book for free. Many times I find books for a song and pass the savings along to you by asking for no cash at all. Sometimes they are old copies. Sometimes they are new copies of old books. Sometimes they are exlibrary books. Sometimes they are out of print paperbacks, like today.

Sooooo, the book up for grabs on this lovely morning is a newish paperback copy of One Monster After Another by Mercer Mayer. There is no way you can not dig this book. As long as your kid understands that monsters are not real and are not looking to eat your postage, they should be cool too.

To be entered to win, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post before midnight Sunday, August 24. Then Monday, I will randomly pick a winner. Barring any other family emergencies, you can expect one of these giveaways every Monday hence forth, so stick around.

That said, good luck, and stay tuned for a review later in the day!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
Lewis Carroll
pictures by Leonard Weisgard
Harper & Brothers, 1959

Sorry for my absence over the last couple of days, but getting the hell outta dodge was more time consuming than I thought it would be. That said, I saw this book in an antique mall and didn't buy it because ~ at the time ~ I thought $5 was too much (I'm so cheap!), but then I couldn't shake it and had to go back. Boy, am I glad I did. Stop me if I'm wrong here, but from what I can tell by the flaps, this was only the second version of Alice's adventures and the first copy with color illustrations. (I think we are all familiar with the famous original.)

I'm starting to get into reading more text heavy books to the boy anyway, and so far so good. It helps that he already kinda knows the story of Alice (thank you Disney), and the 24 full-color plates here are more than enough to get a feel for the characters. Weisgard's illustrations bring a new twist to this already wacky world, one I am sure Carroll would have been pleased with.

Such a wonderful book really, one that I probably didn't read enough of when I was wee. I was, however, obessed for a while with the '85 film Dreamchild which is about the real Alice ~ who Carroll wrote the story for ~ coming to America as an old woman to help celebrate Lewis Carroll's centenary. She has to come to terms with her relationship with the author ~ at times mildly creeping and awkwardly doting ~ but in the end, no matter what his intentions were with the young Ms. Alice Liddell, he gave her a gift that is indelible. Immortality. Anywho, I'm rambling....

Alice was beginning to get tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and having nothing to do; once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversation in it, "and what is the use of a book" thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?"

My thoughts exactly.

Also by:
The Quiet Noisy Book
Little Chicken
The Little Island
Treasures to See
The Big Book of Nursery Tales
Sir Kevin of Devon
Cynthia and the Unicorn
The Mouse and the Lion

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Big Golden Animal ABC

Animal ABC
Garth Williams/ published 1954 by Western Publishing

Still lovin' these Big Golden Books. Really, why aren't all picture books oversized and wonderful like these? It's such a great format to showcase illustration. Anywho... this is a trip through the alphabet hosted by the cutest little Williams' bunnies. From the giant teeth of the alligator to the rear end of the zebra, each animal has a rabbit companion that brings humor and life to what otherwise might be just another animal ABC. (By the way, what's an ermine?)

Let us go find...
Bb for BEAR
Cc for CAT
Dd for deer

Williams draws the greatest creatures and the ample spread of this fold allows you to truly appreciate the sweetness of his kitten eyes and mouse whiskers. Such a talent that man was. Really, anything you see illustrated by him you should grab. (PS... I am headed back to Texas in two days. That means in less than a week I'll be reunited with my scanner. YEA!)

Also by:
Wait Til the Moon is Full
Do You Know What I'll Do?
The Sky Was Blue
The Rabbits' Wedding
Three Bedtime Stories
The Friendly Book

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mud Pies and Other Recipes

Mud Pies and Other Recipes
Marjorie Winslow ~ illustrations by Erik Blegvad
Macmillan, 1961
NYR Children's Collection, 2010

Oh my goodness. Tucked up among some other titles in the attic ~ so small I almost missed it all together ~ was an old friend I haven't seen in years. Many a summer day was spent mixing rainspout tea and dandelion souffle, while a mud pie baked in the sun. If you look closely at these pictures, you will even see my own childhood mud stains still clinging to the pages of this dear, dear title after all these years. So special is this book to me that I am copying the forward here in full...

This is a cookbook for dolls. It is written for kind climates and summertime.

It is an outdoor cookbook, because dolls dote on mud, when properly prepared. They love the crunch of pine needles and the sweet feel of seaweed on the tongue. The market place, then, will be a forest or sand dune or your own backyard.

You can use a tree stump for a counter. The sea makes a nice sink; so does a puddle at the end of a hose. For a stove there is the sun, or a flat stone. And ovens are everywhere. You'll find them under bushes, in sandboxes or behind trees.

Cooking utensils should, whenever possible, be made from something that would otherwise be thrown away. Cutting the side from an empty milk carton leaves a perfect loaf pan, while slicing an inch or two from the bottom of another makes a good square cake pan. The bottom half of a heavy cardboard egg carton does nicely as a muffin tin and as a mold for individual cakes and pies. Empty frozen pie pans are very useful. So are frozen orange juice cans, cupped milk bottle tops, small flower pots, pop bottle caps and coffee cans.

Doll cookery is not an exacting art. The time it takes to cook a casserole depends on how long your dolls are able to sit at table without falling over. And if a recipe calls for a cupful of something, you can use a measuring cup or a teacup or a buttercup. It doesn't much matter. What does matter is that you select the best ingredients available, set a fine table, and serve with style.

Amen sister.

Also by:
A Year is a Window
The Last of the Wizards
The Diamond in the Window
Plenty of Fish

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Weekend Update

I don't normally speak out of context like this, but I have a few updates to let you guys in on.

1) As of Wednesday, I am headed back to San Antonio, so get ready for the return of the Great Monday Give on Monday, August 18. Giveaway book TBD... who knows.. maybe this time it will be more than one!

2) I am traveling cross country with tubs of books sooo full, I am embarrassed to tell you. Let's just say, there is going to be some flushing from my son's bookshelves in the weeks to come. Either that, or I will have to add a wing on to our house.

3) As you guys who read the comments might already have guessed, I was contacted by the awesome folks at small magazine to do a (small) guest gig, so be on the look out for the autumn edition. It is a swanky online rag, so if you haven't checked it out yet, get on their mailing list here. For you non-joiners, I'll let you know when the issue hits the web.

That's it for now folks. Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Golden Bible

The Golden Bible
selected and arranged by Elsa Jane Werner, illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky/ published 1946 by Simon and Schuster

It's weird, but this guy has been sort of the laureate of my stay here in Virginia. Every book I see in a store or pick up around the house was illustrated by Rojankovsky. Inscribed with my mom's initials, I have vague memories that this book was around, but it was not the children's bible I most remember... the one from which I first saw the shaft of light coming from the sky onto Jesus' head.... making me forever call those sorts of sun rays "Jesus Rays".

As you returning readers know, my thoughts on religion are pretty broad and wide open, but to me basic bible stories, regardless of your beliefs, are classic stories that speak to anyone about what it means to try and be a good person within the world. Epic. Majestic. Timeless. Those are the types of words that come to mind when I flip through the pages of what has to be the most lavish children's bible of all time.

Of course, what you see here is Genesis 6-9; "Noah and the Great Flood". And, of course, you know why I selected it. (PS and FYI... my son digs animals. Duh.)

Noah was a just man, the best of all the men of his time, and he lived by God's rules. He had three sons, named Shem, Ham, and Japheth. God said to Noah, "I will destroy all living things on the earth, for the earth is filled with evil because of them."

Next comes the two by two and the rain and the dove... yea, yea. We all know what happens from there.... for any kid that could use a lesson in religious metaphor or needs a brush up on how "Daniel in the Lions' Den" turns out (Daniel comes out of the den unscathed, remember?) this book is for you...

Also by:
The Tall Book of Nursery Tales
Over in the Meadow

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Stories That Never Grow Old

Stories That Never Grow Old
edited by Watty Piper with illustrations by George and Doris Hauman/ published 1938 by The Platt & Munk Co.

This book is probably how I first came to know the story "The Little Engine That Could", and features other classics like "The Boy Who Cried Wolf", "The Pied Piper of Hamlin", "Billy Goat Gruff", "The Ugly Duckling" and more.... as well as the tale that scared me more than any in my youth, "Teeny-Tiny".

Soooo, there's this Teeny-Tiny woman, see. She lived in a teeny-tiny cottage in a teeny-tiny village with a teeny-tiny cat and so on.... The wee lady goes on a walk and ends up stealing the clothes off the back of a neighbor's scarecrow so she can wear them as her own. Later that night when she is asleep in bed...

It wasn't very long before she was wakened by a teeny-tiny voice, which came from the teeny-tiny closet.

"Give me my clothes!" said the teeny-tiny voice.

At this the teeny-tiny woman, was a teeny-tiny bit frightened. She called in her teeny-tiny voice: "Who's there?"

There was no reply, so she pulled the teeny-tiny bedclothes up over her teeny-tiny head and went to sleep again.

Needless to say, this isn't the last she hears of the voice; it becomes progressively louder and more angry, until at last... I was so spooked by the illustration of the dresser closet with its handles for eyes and wagging shirt-tail tongue. I would purposely read right up to that story just to freak myself out, but then skip it for fear that the dresser in the picture would come to life and eat me!

The beautiful illustration pictured here is from the story "The Boy and the North Wind" one of those Nordic tales where magic keeps a family fed. I love those stories where a child's fantasies and wishes come true, and they have nothing to do with gold or riches... just simply taking care of one's mother.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Favorite Poems

Favorite Poems
by Eugene Field with illustrations by Malthe Hasselriis/ published 1940 by Grosset & Dunlap

Winding down to the last week staying with my Mom (she's very much on the mend by the way and thank you), and I'm desperately trying to find time to get to writing posts for all her books. (And desperately trying NOT to think about all my favorite local-vintage-book-hot-spots back home that have been pillaged in my absence.)

Favorite Poems has Mom's signature in pencil in the front cover, and the drawings within are beyond awesome. This is the illustration for Wynken, Blynken and Nod (a personal childhood fave), but the poem that is truly not to be missed is "Seein' Things" and it begins as follows...

I ain't afraid of snakes, or toads, or bugs, or worms, or mice,
An' things 'at girls are skeered uv I think are awful nice!
I'm pretty brave, I guess; an' yet I hate to go to bed,
For, when I'm tucked up warm an' snug an' when my prayers are said,
Mother tells me "Happy dreams!" and takes away the light,
An' leaves me lyin' all alone an' seein' things at night!

I would have posted the drawing from this one as well as the remainder of the copy, but that would spoil the fun. (Really... the picture of the menacing bedside spooks is classic!) These poems are timelessly fun, but definitely of a time... as my son likes to say, "Sounds like a great combo."

Also by:
The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat
Wynken, Blynken and Nod

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths

D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths
Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire
Doubleday, 1962

Finally got around to cracking this little ditty open only to be faced with a hilarious little illustration on the cover page. It is my sister's name in totally 80s scrawl with a self-penned cartoon of a hipster-type Johnny Nemo cartoon with the words underneath... "GREEKS RULE. NO MYTHS!" Not sure what exactly that means, but if you knew my sister, it would make you giggle. She is a woman who always signs her name with a period at the end. Go figure.

That said, this was her all time favorite book as a kid. I've mentioned it before in a previous post, but these stories are totally habit forming. God, what a great book. I can't even tell you how many copies of it I hand-sold back in my bookseller days, but when someone came in asking for a gift for a child, I always, always, ALWAYS put this book in their hand.

It tells the individual tales of all the major and minor gods and all their rascal-ish offspring in a way that makes Peyton Place seem like Romper Room. Back in my day ~ for a little girl ~ Aphrodite, Athena, Persephone, and the Nine Muses were way more romantic, violent, and intriguing than the Disney princesses could ever hope to be. Persephone for one (the daughter of Demeter the goddess of harvest) who was so beguiling that Hades the lord of the dead couldn't help but fall in love with her. So what do you do when you are ruler of all things dank and dead and you want to impress a lady? Why you open up the gates of hell and suck her down, of course.

One day as Persephone ran about in the meadow gathering flowers, she strayed away from her mother and the attending nymphs. Suddenly, the ground split open and up from the yawning crevice came a dark chariot drawn by black horses. At the reins stood grim Hades. He seized the terrified girl, turned his horses, and plunged back into the ground. A herd of pigs rooting in the meadow tumbled into the cleft, and Persephone's cries for help died out as the ground closed again as suddenly as it opened.

What follows is the tale of why there are winters and summers... a tale so fascinating and titillating, that I can't imagine any girl who loves this story not growing up to be attracted (if only secretly) to bad boys. Plus, what little girl wouldn't kill for a group of "attending nymphs" to plat her hair and tell her she is the most beautiful maiden in all the kingdom? All the illustrations are this glorious (no surprise there), and little boys will freak for the stories of the manly Heracles and the conflict between Cronus and Zeus to take the throne as king of everything ~ ruler of the heavens and earth.

Do your kids and yourself a favor and get them to Olympus ASAP. These stories own the themes from which all other fiction is based. Timeless tales for sure.

Also by:
The Terrible Troll Bird
D'Aulaire's Book of Animals
Benjamin Franklin
Don't Count Your Chicks
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